Mailbag I: Ben Axelrod Answers Your Questions

With the holiday season upon us, what better way to give back than to answer your questions about Ohio State, professional wrestling, and pop culture? That's what Ben Axelrod was thinking when he put together his debut mailbag, where he takes a stab at answering whatever it is that is on your mind.

Ever since I got into writing, a part of me has felt like I was doing a bad Bill Simmons impression. What? You noticed that too?

So rather than just rip off his snarky tweets and general way of thinking, I figured why not take it a step further and pay homage to one of his most successful column templates: the mailbag.

Here, no questions are off-limits, although I'll try to include as many Ohio State-related questions as I can to justify posting this on a website titled To ask a question for a future mailbag, please contact me at either or @BenAxelrod.

Without further ado, I give you Mailbag I (and yes, we are going to do this in a WrestleMania roman numeral-style counting from here on out).

Disclaimer: These are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: Who is the starting running back for Ohio State next season and what does the depth chart look like?

BA: According to the Buckeyes' current depth chart, the answer to this question would be Rod Smith, but we haven't seen Mr. Smith carry the ball for OSU since Nov. 2. In what was deemed a make or break year for the redshirt junior, Smith appeared to do the latter as he accumulated just 117 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.

Not knowing what will happen with Smith next season, the best to take over the Buckeyes' starting running back role is sophomore-to-be Ezekiel Elliott, who exceeded expectations with 262 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in his freshman campaign. He's not the power runner that Carlos Hyde is -- I expect that role to be given to Bri'onte Dunn -- but a combination of Elliott, Dunn, Warren Ball and Dontre Wilson in the slot should help make up for the loss of the first 1,000-yard running back in the history of Urban Meyer's coaching career.

Q: Do you think Khloe and Lamar's two-week courtship doomed their marriage from the start? Are drugs fully to blame? Is Lamar even good at basketball? Do you think Khloe resented him?
-Beth, Columbus

Q: How are you holding up since Khloe dumped LamLam?

Q: Do you think Khloe knew about Lamar's drug abuse in the 10 days before she married him? How does using crack affect the body specifically related to playing professional basketball? How hard would it be to use crack and continue to play? Do you think Khloe filed for divorce because of the drugs or cheating rumors or both?
-Janet, Grandview

BA: So much Kardashian talk, so little time!

Let me start by saying, no, my mood hasn't been affected by the Khloe Kardashian-Lamar Odom divorce, and I'm not even sure where that notion comes from. Yes, I probably know more about that Kardashian-Jenner klan than any 25-year-old heterosexual male should, but I want to be able to tell my grandkids everything that I can about America's first family.

Now, having said that, here are my general thoughts on the divorce:

1. It's an absolute miracle that these two lasted nearly four years together after a wedding that was slapped together in about two weeks, most likely to create a fat commission check for America's worst parent, Kris Jenner. Every year after Year 1 that we got from KhloMar was a bonus and we should just be thankful that they gave us nearly half a decade.

2. The final straw was absolutely Lamar's incoherent rap video, in which he admits to cheating on Khloe. And if I'm not mistaken, the co-star of the video is Lamar's loser friend Jamie, who played a central role in the first season of the underrated Khloe & Lamar. It's not hard to connect the dots here.

3. Even if your courtship only last two weeks, I don't think you marry somebody without knowing that there's a slim chance that he could eventually (allegedly) be addicted to crack. That just doesn't happen. At the very least, Khloe knew about Lamar's past and knew that this was a possibility. And lo and behold, here we are.

4. As for the notion that Khloe resented Lamar, that's absurd. Surprisingly, he's a more successful athlete than any of Kim's exes. Reggie Bush, Miles Austin, and especially Kris Humphries don't have anything on Lamar, who has been an integral part to two NBA championship teams and at one point in his career was the centerpiece of a trade for Shaquille O'Neal. Khloe absolutely was getting the better end of the deal in this relationship, which makes it so surprising that she's the one who comes out of it looking like the better of the two.

Q: Who does Khloe date next?
-Janet, Grandview

BA: As her profile as increased, Khloe has gone from a pretty bad NBA sixth man in Rashad McCants (remember that?) to one of the best in league history in Lamar. I think it's still premature to say that Khloe could pull a starter in the league (sorry, Khloe), but she is working her way up. I think that a relationship between Khloe and J.R. Smith could be an interesting one, if not only for the reason that the Instagrams would be epic, and Mr. Lay The Pipe is one of the most fascinating players in NBA history. In fact, that's where I'm going to put my money, although a move to the rap game like big sister could (shockingly) result in less heartbreak.

Q: How would you gauge (in importance to the program) the Raekwon McMillan signing vs. the Vonn Bell signing?
-Matt, Columbus

BA: An interesting question, albeit one where it's probably too early to answer. And ultimately, the correct pick will be whoever winds up being the better player.

Both players hail from Georgia, so it's not like one has an edge over the other when it comes to establishing Ohio State's presence in the south. Both players were also recruited by Alabama, so it's not like one has an edge over the other when it comes to the Buckeyes beating out the Crimson Tide. And both players were very highly touted, which is why the ball is in their respective courts to prove that they are the more important recruit.

Some fans may be disappointed by the impact -- or lack thereof -- that Bell has made this season, but they'll likely be saying the same thing about McMillan a year from now. That doesn't mean that either player is a bust -- far from it -- but National Signing Day is more about the talent that will be molded for three seasons that it is immediate impact. Sure, there will always be players like Joey Bosa who are able to step right in and contribute on Day 1, but the fact of the matter is that most players take at least a year to find their way onto the field for significant playing time, which is why one season is hardly enough to label a player as a disappointment.

There will be some playing time to be had at linebacker next season, which is something that I expect McMillan to take advantage of. But for now, I'm going to answer with Bell, since he came first and was one of the initial five-star prospects to prove to the rest of the country that Meyer wasn't messing around on the recruiting trail.

Q: Why is there not a Swensons anywhere close to Columbus? If you live in Cleveland, you probably have access to one within 30-45 minutes. Not for Columbus. I have to drive all the way to Canton to enjoy my Galley Boys, and that isn't right. Can we hold a telethon or something to raise awareness of this?
-Rob, Columbus

BA: Rob, allow me to answer your question with a question: why do you prefer Swensons over Skyway? Do you just not know Skyway exists?

As somebody with plenty of family and friends in the Northeast Ohio area, this is a common debate that I find myself in, as it's clear to me that Skyway -- also a drive-in restaurant -- is just a better version of everybody's (LeBron included) beloved Swensons.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to the man who turned me onto Skyway, 1977 Akron Firestone graduate and my father, Mark Axelrod:

MA: Skyway is better than for several reasons - first and foremost, when you go to either, you're looking for the basics; a good hamburger (or cheeseburger), fries or onion rings and a drink. If you compare a Skyway burger to Swensons - Skyway's burger is much bigger and it tastes better - the perfect unique sweetness and the classic toppings (onion, pickle and mustard) are more consistent. Not to get too specific but the buns are better at Skyway too, as is the cheese if you go for a cheeseburger.

Now to the drink - a large Californian at Skyway is always the perfect mix, never too syrupy. Like a Coke at McDonalds it always tastes the same - the exact opposite at Swensons. Their version is a cheap imitation. Can't even compare the onion rings - Skyway has the best I've ever had.

When I hear people talk about Swensons, they talk about the "Galleyburger" or something like that - when the Food Network compared the two - that's what they talked about. Who goes to either of these places for some specialty burger? The proof is in the basics and you can't beat Skyway.

There you have it. Who can really argue with logic like that?

Q: What kind of effect do you think a high preseason ranking and being favored in virtually every game has on a fan base?  Barring 2011's disastrous season, when was the last time an underdog OSU upset a higher ranked team? The 2002 national championship game?  I've found that when you remove that "upset" potential, the fan base tends to enjoy wins less and suffer losses more.

BA: I believe that the last time (sans 2011) that Ohio State recorded an upset would have been the 2010 Rose Bowl (which was a part of the 2009 season), and to your point, that seemed to be one of the more enjoyed wins in recent Ohio State memory.

And to answer your question: absolutely. Having primarily been a fan of Cleveland sports teams, I don't know the feeling all that well, but in the few years that the Cavs were good, winning felt like a relief much more than it did something to celebrate.

It's a pick your poison type of thing, but I'd much rather be rooting for a winner with high expectations than the little guy who's just lucky to be there. You'll find that in every big fan base, whether it be Ohio State, the Yankees, Lakers, or Cowboys. Every little negative thing seems like the sky is falling, while some of the big things go unnoticed. Everything in life is relative and sports isn't any different.

Think of it like getting a date -- or something along those lines. If it's been a while since you've had one, a night out with a seven might make your month. But if you're consistently dating eights and nines, who's going to be excited about a seven? The seven didn't get any prettier or uglier -- she didn't change. Your mindset did.

Q: Pick one: Walls of Jericho, Sharpshooter, or Rings of Saturn?

BA: The first of many professional wrestling questions I received, but the only one that I will be answering for now.

And the answer is dependent on if we're talking about the Walls Of Jericho, or the traditional Liontamer. Because there's a big difference.

Assuming we're talking about the Walls Of Jericho, as you asked, give me the Sharpshooter. But if the Liontamer is involved, I'm taking that.

As somebody who has been put in all three moves, I can assure you that there's no way to fake the Liontamer. When you combine the pressure placed on your hamstrings and glutes with the knee being driven into your spine, there's just no way to endure that without receiving copious amounts of pain. The Walls of Jericho -- and Sharpshooter -- however, you can be put in without much pressure, and thus not receive a lot pain. We've seen Sting copy the Sharpshooter for years now without applying any semblance of pressure to opponents before they tap out.

When it comes down to it, however, I'm going to give the Sharpshooter the edge, not only because it's more aesthetically pleasing than the Walls Of Jericho, but because it can be reversed into a Sharpshooter in and of itself, which is pretty neat.

Q: Seeing multiple reports that Braxton Miller is considering leaving early. I understand it. A young father trying to provide for his family. And throw in the fact that he is injury prone and he has shredded the Big Ten for two straight years, his draft stock might not get higher than the 3rd/4th round grade he will receive this year. My question for you is this - WHY ARE BUCKEYE FANS NOT FREAKING OUT?!?!?!?!
-Joe, Columbus

BA: Because they don't want to believe that that's the reality. Even though, it very much is.

To be honest, if you're weighing Miller's options, there's a lot more that says he should leave than there is that says he should stay.

Does he have room to improve? Of course. Every player does. But Miller has already made significant strides as a passer, and rather than assume he's going to get better, there's just as much of a chance that he's hit his ceiling in that regard. And as you pointed out, the injuries are really a real thing, and the chance to provide right now is guaranteed, whereas it might not be a year from now.

The way that the NFL draft system is set up, unless you think you can become a top-15 pick -- impossible to guarantee a year away -- there's really no sense in coming back. You're better off getting that additional year's salary and working toward your next contract. I've had people suggest to me on Twitter that he'd be out of the league in a year, which is insane. Have you seen him play? Have you seen the other quarterbacks on NFL rosters? Based on his talent alone, he's guaranteed five years on an NFL roster as a quarterback before somebody tries to turn him into a wide receiver, if that doesn't work out. Miller has a career in football right now if he wants it.

As for your question as to why fans aren't freaking out, it's because college football fans are a funny kind. They want their star junior to be the best until the words "NFL Draft" get brought up. Then they poke holes in the kid's game, even if they defended those holes in a Heisman Trophy conversation. It's all about what will be best for their program -- not the kid -- and that's just the truth.

Do I think Braxton would be best served in the long run with a return to Columbus? Probably. But after hearing him talk about it, I'd say it's more than likely that he's in the NFL next season and I don't see any reason for anybody to fault him for that.

Q: Why do people like Kanye West?

BA: Why don't you?

If his music just isn't your cup of tea, I understand. It's not for everybody. But if you're a hip-hop fan and The College Dropout isn't one of your favorite albums of the past 15 years, I have a hard time believing you're actually a hip-hop fan.

I'm guessing your hatred of Yeezus stems not from his music -- although the quality of his last album is certainly debatable -- but from his personality. What's to like about a pampered celebrity who accuses the president of racism and runs up on Taylor Swift at the VMAs? (side note: it was the freaking VMAs. Can we stop pretending like he interrupted her accepting a Nobel Peace Prize? And he was right. Beyonce did have one of the best albums of all time).

If arrogance isn't your thing, I get it, it's cool. But I've always had a deep admiration for people who show an ability to breakaway from the traditional norms of society and think for themselves. That goes for writers like Simmons, rappers like Kanye and even wrestlers like CM Punk. There are so many cookie cutter people out there just doing what they think they should be doing in a job rather than doing it uniquely and putting their own spin on it. That doesn't always rub me the right way -- I'm looking at you Lady Gaga -- but I'll never not respect it.

Plus, Bound 2 was the best song of 2013. Hands down.

Q: Do you think OSU will be mentally ready for the Orange Bowl? A lot of times, teams don't want to be there because of failed national championship game hopes.

When Ohio State first lost to Michigan State, that was my reaction too. Every season there's a team in a BCS game that doesn't want to be there and this year, the Buckeyes fit that bill to a T.

But after talking to the players -- and I know, what are they gonna say? No we don't want to be there? -- my mind changed. Not only with last year's bowl ban, but with a Gator Bowl appearance the year before, this is the first big time bowl game for a lot of the key players on this team. The juniors on this year's team -- none of them have played in a BCS bowl and none of them have played in any game bigger than the Big Ten Championship Game that they just lost.

With all of that in mind, I have a hard time seeing this year's OSU team being uninspired. There's still a lot on the line. The loss to the Spartans may have cheapened 24-0, but an embarrassment against Clemson? That might as well put an asterisk next to it as well.

I don't know if the Buckeyes will win, and given that the Tigers' strength -- passing -- happens to coincide with Ohio State's weakness -- passing defense -- I tend to favor Clemson at this very moment. But I don't think it will be because the Buckeyes don't want to be there, because after watching last bowl season from home and the one before that in Jacksonville, I truly believe Ohio State wants to be taking its talents to South Beach.

Q: Favorite bar on High Street and why? Favorite bar from Short North to downtown and why?

BA: Having been graduated from Ohio State for two years now, it's been a while since I've gone out on actual campus -- okay, it hasn't been that long -- but like most people I went through phases. There was the Little Bar phase, the Out-R-Inn phase, the O-Fratio phase, the Toos phase and of course the "Hey, let's go to Charlie Bear as a joke, but really we're not joking, this is kind of fun" phase.

Most recently, however, I've enjoyed Midway, which is where the old Bento Go-Go used to be. It's two stories, has an outdoor balcony, good prices, good food and isn't too sketchy, but still sketchy enough for some weird stuff to go down.

As far as the Short North/Park Street area that I frequent more often, for better or worse, you can most often find me at Callahan's or Brothers, which are my hometown of Dublin's unofficial reunion headquarters. I have been, however, finding myself at the Pint House (or is it ‘Haus?') a decent amount recently, which has a good atmosphere, great food and six dollar beers!

Really though, it's not about the bar you're at, but rather who you're with at that bar. And if it has a street meat vending cart outside of it, that's good too.

Q: Will Lenzelle Smith Jr. be able to maintain his scoring when he hits the Big Ten schedule? Is this run of good shooting a result of playing lesser teams or has he finally 'found it?'

I think with a player like Amir Williams, who is dominating guys six inches shorter than him right now, you can sometimes attribute a hot start to lesser competition, but not for a shooter like Smith.

Competition has never been the key for Smith, who has had big games against the likes of Indiana and Syracuse in the Elite Eight already in his career. It's always been consistency that's been the issue, as he'd follow up those 20-plus point performances with no-shows in the ensuing game.

This year, inconsistency has been far from an issue for Smith, who has been the Buckeyes' leading scorer as he averages more than 13 points per game. He's bound to hit a lull at some point -- every shooter does -- but the consistency that he's enjoyed has been unprecedented in his career. Quite frankly, that's been one of the big reasons why the Buckeyes are currently one of the top three teams in the country and could be No. 1 overall by the start of Big Ten play.

Q: If an adult film results in a pregnancy, what happens? The production company has parental rights, correct?

BA: Yep, these are my readers.

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